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Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our message? To whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?- The context of this arm of Yahweh is found in Is. 52:10 "Yahweh has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God". The past tense was used because this outcome was so certain- but it still depended upon the repentance and faith of the exiles. Had they returned, supported with the same kind of miraculous manifestations as seen at the exodus, then "the nations" amongst whom they were scattered, the 127 provinces of Persia, would have seen God's arm revealed; the revelation (s.w.) of His salvation (Is. 56:1). The ends of the eretz were specifically those areas on the borders of the eretz promised to Abraham, which is where they had been taken into captivity. But this didn't happen. The message of these things was not generally believed by the exiles, despite all the appeals to them to believe it (e.g. Is. 43:10 s.w.). And so the arm of Yahweh which brings salvation is revealed now to the nations through the work of the Lord Jesus.

Note the pronouns in Is. 53. The “we” who preach the Gospel of the cross are the “we” who rejected and condemned the Saviour, and the “we” whose sins are forgiven and who are reconciled to God. These are the reasons why we preach the crucified Christ in zeal and humility (Is. 53:1,2,3,5,6). Grace is the motive power for witness; we preach the word of His grace as it has been to us. We aren't  little sinners. It was our race who crucified the Lord of glory, and we have some part in their behaviour.

Isaiah 53:2 For he grew up before Him as a tender plant-
Isaiah 53 is prefaced in chapter 52 by the command to return from Babylon and to proclaim the good news of the Messianic Kingdom which Cyrus’ decree could have brought in; as if it could have come true then. He shall “grow up” as a root from a dry land (Is. 53:2) uses the word frequently used about the ‘going up’ from Babylon to Jerusalem.

 When Zedekiah was taken into captivity (Ez. 17:20), it was prophesied that “a tender one” (Messiah- Is. 11:1; 53:2) would be planted “upon an high mountain”, and grow into a tree in whose shadows all animals would live (Ez. 17:21,22). This is clearly the Messianic Kingdom (Lk. 13:19). This young twig at the time of the captivity was surely Zerubabbel, and the “high mountain” upon which his Kingdom could have been established is surely the “high mountain” of Ez. 40:2 where the temple could have been built. Yet the prophecy had to suffer a massive deferment until its fulfilment in Christ. See on Is. 51:18. 

And as a root out of dry ground. He has no good looks or majesty; when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him- This is possibly a window onto the question of whether the Lord was handsome, or otherwise. But the essential point is that He grew up tender and sensitive in a hard environment. We cannot therefore blame our dry, unspiritual environments for our lack of spirituality. The Lord arose from such dry ground, green and tender, ultimately sensitive in an insensitive world. The thirsty land surrounding Him represented spiritually barren Israel (Ps. 42:1-3); but the Lord Jesus so took His people upon Him, into His very soul, that His soul became a thirsty land (Ps. 143:6); He felt as spiritually barren as they were, so close was His representation of us, so close was He to sinful man, so fully did He enter into the feelings of the sinner. In the same way as the Lord really did feel forsaken as Israel were because of their sins, so He suffered thirst, both literally and spiritually, which was a punishment for Israel's sins.

Is. 53:2 speaks of Messiah, in a restoration context beginning in Is. 52, as ‘growing up’, the same word used to describe the ‘coming up’ from the dry ground of Babylon. This potential Messiah could have been Zerubbabel, but when he failed to fulfill the prophecies, there was the possibility that another man could have fulfilled his role. Nehemiah ‘came up’ from Babylon, and was “the servant” who ‘prospered’ Yahweh’s work (Neh. 1:11; 2:20), just as the servant prophecies required (Is. 53:10; 48:15); and he was thereby the redeemer of his brethren (Neh. 5:8). He encouraged the singing of praise on the walls of Zion (Neh. 9:5; 12:46), surely in a conscious effort to fulfill the words of Is. 60:18- that Zion’s gates in Messiah’s Kingdom would be praise. He was “despised” as Messiah would be (Neh. 2:19; Is. 53:3 s.w.). He entered Jerusalem on a donkey, as Messiah would (Neh. 2:12 cp. Zech. 9:9); and Neh. 2:16 sounds very much like “of the people there was none with me” (Is. 63:3). The Gentiles round about came to sit at Nehemiah’s table to eat and drink (Neh. 5:17), just as Isaiah had prophesied could happen on a grander scale at the restoration of the Kingdom. One wonders if the potential fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies was transferred to  him? And yet Nehemiah returned to Babylon at least once, and there is no record that on his second visit he stayed on, but rather, the implication seems to be, he returned again to the service of Babylon. The total lack of Biblical information about his later life may reflect this disappointing decision. This train of thought enables us to appreciate the joy and pleasure which the Father had when finally His beloved Son lived up to all that He sought and expected.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised-
The same word occurs in Dan. 4:17, concerning how Yahweh will exalt the basest, the least esteemed, to be King over the kingdoms of this world. That made-basest man was a reference to the Lord Jesus. He humbled Himself on the cross, that He might be exalted. Peter had his eye on this fact when he asks us to humble ourselves, after the pattern of the Lord, that we might be exalted in due time (1 Pet. 5:6). He desired greatness in the Kingdom, and so can we;  for the brighter stars only reflect more glory of the Sun (1 Cor. 15:41). This very thought alone should lift us up on the eagle wings of Spirit above whatever monotony or grief we now endure.

And rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with disease. He was despised as one from whom men hide their face- LXX "for his face is turned from us" would connect with how Hezekiah turned his face to the wall during his illness (Is. 38:2). His whole life was a being acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3 AV); and yet we read in this same context that He was put to grief in His death (:10). The grief of His death was an extension of the grief of His life. “Who hath believed our report?" (Is. 53:1) was fulfilled by the Jewish rejection of Him in His life, as well as in His death (Jn. 12:38)."He bore the sin of many" (Is. 53:12) is applied by Jn. 1:29 to how during His ministry, the Lord Jesus bore the sin of the world.


Isaiah laments that despite the wonder of the atonement God would work out on the cross, scarcely any would believe it, and men would turn away their faces from the crucified Christ (Is. 53:1,3). And so it happened. Men and women went out that Friday afternoon to behold it, they saw it for a few moments, beat their breasts and returned to their homes (Lk. 23:48). My sense is that most of that crowd still died in unbelief, untouched by what they saw that day. And so it is with us. We break bread, and we rise up and go on our way, we return to the pettiness of our lives, to a spirituality which often amounts (at its best) to little more than a scratching about on the surface of our natures. But let's not look away, and change the subject; let's see the love of Christ, behold it, and by this very act be changed into that same image, from glory unto glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).

And we didn’t respect him- We are programmed to shy away from the ultimate realities, in the same way as men hid their faces from the terror and dastardly horror of the crucifixion of God's Son (Is. 53:3), and as "none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding" to realize the idiocy of worshipping a piece of wood as an idol (Is. 44:19).


Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our sickness, and carried our suffering-
God speaks of being burdened by Israel's sins (Is. 43:24)- and yet this is a prelude to the passages which speak of the Lord Jesus bearing our sins on the cross (Is. 53:4,11,12). We even read of God being wearied by Israel's sins (Is. 7:13; Jer. 15:6; Ez. 24:12; Mal. 2:17). Even though God does not "grow weary" (Is. 40:28) by nature, it seems to me that in His full entering into His people's situation, He does allow Himself to grow weary with the sins of those with whom He is in covenant relationship. It was this kind of capacity which God has which was supremely revealed in His 'sharing in' the crucifixion of His Son.

The Lord Jesus during His ministry fulfilled the prophecy of Is. 53:4 that on the cross He would ‘take our infirmities’ (Mt. 8:17). These “infirmities” according to Is. 53:4 were our sins, but sin’s effect is manifested through sickness. The moral dimension to these “infirmities” is established by Paul in Romans, for in Rom. 5:6 he uses the word to describe how “when we were yet weak [s.w. ‘infirm’], Christ died for the ungodly; and he explains his sense here as being that “when we were yet sinners” (Rom. 5:8). Jesus as the Lord the Spirit engages with our infirmities, on the plane of the spirit, the deep human mind and psyche. What He did on the cross in engaging with our moral infirmity He did in His life, and He continues to do for us in essence.

Yet we considered him plagued, struck by God, and afflicted- "We esteemed him [as He hung on the cross] smitten of God" (Is. 53:4 AV). It was in a sense God who "clave the rock" so that the waters gushed out (Ps. 78:15; Is. 48:21). "Clave" or "struck" / "smitten" implies that the rock was literally broken open; and in this we see a dim foreshadowing of the gaping hole in the Lord's side after the spear thrust, as well as a more figurative image of how His life and mind were broken apart in His final sacrifice. See on Is. 48:21.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions-
We are to reconstruct in our own minds the process of the crucifixion. As the nails pierced His skin and flood flowed... this was for my transgressions.

He was crushed for our iniquities- AV "bruised". Note that the Lord was beaten up at least three times: by the Jewish guards, by Herod's men and by the Roman soldiers. In a literal sense He was bruised for our iniquities, and chastised for us to obtain the peace of sin forgiven (Is. 53:5). The Father surely foresaw all this back in Gen. 3:15, where the promised seed was to be bruised. He was bruised "and by his bruises we are healed" (LXX). The Lord Jesus was “wounded in the heel” through his death. Is. 53:4,5 describes Him as being ‘bruised’ by God through his death on the cross. This plainly alludes to the prophecy of Gen. 3:15 that the serpent would bruise Christ. However, ultimately God worked through the evil which Christ faced, He is described here as doing the bruising (Is. 53:10), through controlling the forces of evil which bruised His Son. And so God also works through the evil experiences of each of His children.

The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed- Many have pointed out the connections between the promises to David in 2 Sam. 7 about Jesus, and the later commentary upon them in Psalm 89 and Isaiah 53, with reference to the crucifixion.

If he [Jesus] commit iniquity = If his children [us] forsake my law… = The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all

I will chasten him with the rod of men = Then will I visit their transgression with the rod = For the transgression of my people was he stricken

And with the stripes of the children of men = And their iniquity with stripes = With his stripes we are healed.

The point of all this is to show how our sins were somehow carried by the Lord Jesus, to the extent that He suffered for them. But how was this actually achieved? It is one thing to say it, but we must put meaning into the words. I suggest it was in that the Lord  so identified with us, His heart so bled for us, that He felt a sinner even though He of course never sinned. The final cry “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” clearly refers back to all the many passages which speak of God forsaking the wicked, but never forsaking the righteous. The Lord, it seems to me, felt a sinner, although He was not one, and thus entered into this sense of crisis and fear He had sinned. He so identified with us. In the bearing of His cross, we likewise must identify with others, with their needs and with the desperation of their human condition… and this is what will convert them, as the Lord’s identification with us saved us.

The Lord was chastened with the rod of men "and with the stripes of the children of men", i.e. Israel (Is. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24; Mic. 5:1), in His death on the cross. But punishment with rod and stripes was to be given if Messiah sinned (2 Sam. 7:14). Yet the Lord Jesus received this punishment; because God counted Him as if He were a sinner. His sharing in our condemnation was no harmless piece of theology. He really did feel, deep inside Him, that He was a sinner, forsaken by God. Instead of lifting up His face to Heaven, with the freedom of sinlessness, He fell on His face before the Father in Gethsemane (Mt. 26:39), bearing the guilt of human sin.


Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; each one has turned to his own way-
The Bible is in one sense a very long history book, recording human behaviour over time from God’s perspective. One thing at least is clear from that history- the majority are usually wrong. People go astray “like sheep”, in that they follow each other into sin. Time and again we see that the minority position was the right and Godly one, and the majority position was wrong. We each sin in our own unique and personal ways; but we do so because we follow the flock. And the context of Isaiah 53 is that the crucifixion of the Lord was necessary exactly because of this. He was the ultimate strong man psychologically, who ultimately went the Father’s way when no other human ever did.

In the short term, the sheep were scattered by the wolf, even though the Lord died so this wouldn't happen. And He knew in advance that this would happen (Is. 53:6; Mk. 14:27; Jn. 16:32). The Lord faced His final agony with the knowledge that in the short term, what He was dying in order to stop (i.e. the scattering of the sheep) wouldn't work. The sheep would still be scattered, and He knew that throughout the history of His church they would still keep wandering off and getting lost (according to Lk. 15:3-6). Yet He died for us from the motive of ultimately saving us from the effect of doing this. He had clearly thought through the sheep / shepherd symbolism. Unity and holding on to the faith were therefore what He died to achieve (cp. Jn. 17:21-23); our disunity and apostasy, each turning to his own, is a denial of the Lord's sufferings. And this is why it causes Him such pain.

And Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all- see on Lk. 15:4-6. That piece of wood that was laid upon the Lord by the Father, however the Lord physically took it up, represented our sins, which were laid upon Him; your laziness to do your readings early this morning, my snap at the woman in the bus, his hatred of his mother in law... that piece of wood was the symbol of our sins, every one of them. This is what we brought upon Him. It was our laziness, our enmity, our foolishness, our weak will... that necessitated the death of Jesus in this terrible way. It was Yahweh who laid on the Lord the iniquity of us all, as if He was present there when the soldiers laid the cross upon the Lord's shoulders (Is. 53:6).

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed-
Before the cross, we are convicted of our sinfulness. And yet we are assured there of our ultimate salvation. Isaiah 53 predicted that there, “He was oppressed”- Heb. ‘exaction was made’ (s.w. Is. 58:3). He bore our punishment / condemnation on the cross. We each ought to be crucified to death- this is the exaction for sin. And yet, Jesus died for us. The exaction was made from Him. The rejected will have to bear their own sin, and therefore their feelings will be akin to His in the time of crucifixion. Yet we are to bear the cross with Him. We must either crucify ourselves now, or go through it in rejection. This is a gripping logic.

"Oppressed" is the word for "taskmaster" and has been used by Isaiah of Judah's dominators and abusers (Is. 9:4; 14:2,4). The Lord Jesus was "oppressed" as Israel's representative and thus became the basis for righteousness to be imputed to all who had been oppressed and had oppressed others. See on Is. 60:17.

Yet when he was afflicted he didn’t open his mouth. As a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he didn’t open his mouth- John the Baptist looked at Jesus walking towards him and commented that here was the “Lamb of God”, a phrase the Jews would’ve understood as referring to the lamb which was about to be sacrificed on Passover (Jn. 1:29). John presumably was referencing the description of the crucified Jesus in Is. 53:7; for John, he foresaw it all, it was as if he saw Jesus as already being led out to die, even though that event was over three years distant. And so he could appeal to his audience to face judgment day as if they were standing there already. We need to have the same perspective.

Is. 53:7 speaks of the Lord at this time as being uncannily silent: "as a sheep before her shearers is silent" . The LXX has: “Because of his affliction he opens not his mouth", as if the silence was from pure fear as well as a reflection of an internal pain that was unspeakable. Job’s experience had foretold that the cross would be what the Lord had always “greatly feared". The Passover Lamb, so evidently typical of the Lord as He approached death, was to be male. And yet Is. 53:7 conspicuously speaks of a female sheep. Why such an obvious contradiction? Was it not because the prophet foresaw that in the extraordinary breadth of experience the Lord was passing through, He was made to empathize with both men and women? He felt then, as He as the seed of the woman stood silent before those abusive men, as a woman would feel. This is not the only place where both the Father and Son are described in feminine terms. It doesn't mean, of course, that the Father is a woman; what it means is that He has the ability to appreciate and manifest feelings which a male would not normally be able to. Through His experience and zeal for our redemption, the Lord Jesus came to the same ability as His Father in these areas. Those who have suffered most are the most able to empathize. And yet somehow the Lord exceeded this principle; it was true of Him, but such were His sufferings and such His final empathy that this isn't a fully adequate explanation as to how He got to that point of supreme empathy and identity with us that He did. Exactly how He did it must surely remain a mystery; for God was in Him, reconciling the world unto Himself by that fully and totally representative sacrifice.

The female element in Old Testament sacrifice pointed forward to the Lord’s sacrifice, as a sheep before her shearers. His identity with both male and female, as the ultimate representative of all humanity, meant that He took upon Himself things that were perceived as specifically feminine. The mother was the story teller of the family; when people heard the Lord tell parables and teach wisdom, it would have struck them that He was doing the work of the matriarch of a family (V.C. Matthews and D.C. Benjamin, The Social World Of Ancient Israel (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1993) pp. 28-29).  “Typical female behaviour included taking the last place at the table, serving others, forgiving wrongs, having compassion, and attempting to heal wounds", strife and arguments (B. J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights From Cultural Anthropology (Louisville: Westminster / John Knox Press, 1993) p. 54). All this was done by the Lord Jesus- especially in His time of dying and the lead up to it. He was in many ways the idealized mother / matriarch. His sacrifice for us was very much seen as woman’s work. And this is why the example of his mother Mary would have been a particular inspiration for Him in going through the final process of self-surrender and sacrifice for others, to bring about forgiveness and healing of strife between God and men. In a fascinating study, Diane Jacobs-Malina develops the thesis that a psychological analysis of the Gospels shows that the Lord Jesus played his roles like “the wife of the absent husband" (Diane Jacobs-Malina, Beyond Patriarchy: The Images Of Family In Jesus (New York: Paulist, 1993) p.2. ). And assuming that Joseph disappeared from the scene early in life, His own mother would have been His role model here- for she was indeed the wife of an absent husband. You’d have to read Jacobs-Malina’s study to be able to judge whether or not you think it’s all valid. But if she’s right, then it would be yet another tribute to the abiding influence of Mary upon the character of the Son of God.

This idiom of being a lamb dumb and not knowing the outcome of events is used about Jeremiah to describe his wilful naivety about Israel's desire to slay him: "I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me" (Jer. 11:19). In this Jeremiah was indeed a type of Christ. On one hand, the Lord Jesus knew from the beginning who should betray Him; and yet He went through the pain, shock and surprise of realizing that Judas, his own familiar friend in whom He trusted, had done this to Him (Ps. 41:9; Jn. 6:64; 13:11). He knew, and yet He chose to limit that foreknowledge from love. This is in fact what all human beings are capable of, seeing we are made in the image of God. Thus Samson surely knew Delilah would betray him, and yet his love for her made him trust her. And we as observers see women marrying alcoholic men, wincing as we do at the way their love makes them limit their foreknowledge. There is an element of this in God, as there was in His Son as He faced the cross.

The Greek for “delivered Him” (Rom. 8:32) is three times used in Is. 53 LXX about the handing over to Jesus to His death [NEV "that is led"]. The moment of the Lord being delivered over by Pilate is so emphasized. There are few details in the record which are recorded verbatim by all the writers (Mt. 27:26; Mk. 15:15; Lk. 23:25; Jn. 19:16). The Lord had prophesied this moment of handing over, as if this was something which He dreaded (Mk. 9:31; 10:33); that point when He was outside the legal process, and must now face His destruction. The Angels reminded the disciples: "Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men" (Lk. 24:6,7). The emphasis is on "How", with what passion and emphasis. Rom. 4:25 makes this moment of handing over equivalent to His actual death: "Who was delivered (s.w.) for our offences, and raised again for our justification". So much stress is put on this moment of being delivered over to crucifixion. The Gospel records stress that Pilate delivered Him up; but in fact God did (Rom. 8:32); indeed, the Lord delivered Himself up (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2,25). Always the same word is used. Notice how Acts 8:32 changes the quotation from Is. 53 to say that Christ was led (this isn't in the Hebrew text). His passivity is another indication that He was giving His life of His own volition, it wasn't being taken from Him.

We are in Christ, connected every moment with the life and living out of His cross. We are dying with Him, our old man is crucified with Him because His death is an ongoing one. “It is Christ that died... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Rom 8:34-36). According to Isaiah 53, He on the cross was the sheep for the slaughter; but all in Him are all day long counted as sharing His death, as we live out the same self-control, the same spirit of love and self-giving for others, regardless of their response...


Isaiah 53:8 He was taken away-
Much study has been done of the crisis many males go through around the age of 30, the desire to stop experimenting and settle down, to cease being cared for and instead seeking to build up something permanent, the sense that life is passing has all been very well summed up by Daniel Levinson in his study of the "age thirty transition". All this energy was released by the Lord into His three year ministry which changed human destiny, so intense and far reaching and successful was it. "I go to prepare a place for you...." is surely an allusion to the Palestinian tradition that the wife came to live with the new husband after a year and a day, whilst He 'prepared the place' for her. The cross was His purchase of us as His bride. The bridegroom was “taken away” from the wedding guests (Mk. 2:20)- the same word used in the LXX of Is. 53:8 for the ‘taking away’ of the Lord Jesus in His crucifixion death. But the groom is ‘taken away’ from the guests- because he is going off to marry his bride. The cross, in all its tears, blood and pain, was the Lord’s wedding to us.

By oppression and judgement- LXX "In his humiliation his judgment was taken away". But if as the MT, in what sense did the oppression and lack of justice take away His life? The Lord poured out His soul unto death; "he was taken away by distress" (Is. 53:12,8 AVmg.) suggests that it was the mental crisis in the brain of Christ on the cross which resulted in His death. This is why Pilate marvelled that He died so quickly. It is evident from this that the physical process of crucifixion did not kill Christ, but rather the heart burst (both figurative and literal) which it brought upon Him. Do we not sense that striving in our minds as we fellowship His sufferings? Surely we do, but from a great distance. Yet we should sense it more and more, it should make us get out of this sense of drifting which we all too often have, day by day drifting along with very little stirring up our minds.

And as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living- “Cut off" is Heb. ‘excluded’, "from the land of the living” (s.w. ‘the congregation’- of Israel). And this was for the transgression of His people. This is undoubtedly reference to the self-sacrificial exclusion of Moses from the land, that Israel might enter. The Lord died the death of a sinner, He chose like Moses to suffer affliction with us, that we might be saved.

And stricken for the disobedience of My people?- see on Ex. 32:32. The darkness that came down at the crucifixion would have recalled Jer. 33:19-21- when day and night no longer follow their normal sequence, God is breaking His covenant. Israel’s condemnation would be that “even at midday you will grope like a blind man in the dark" (Dt. 28:29). And yet the Lord would have known that He was suffering for Israel, treated as an apostate Israel, and thus He was the more inspired to pray for their ultimate forgiveness and salvation, seeing He had borne their condemnation. The Lord suffered “for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due" (Is. 53:8 RVmg.). There are therefore elements of the crucifixion sufferings of Jesus in every suffering of natural Israel.

Isaiah 53:9 They made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth-
see on Dt. 34:6. Sin is likened to violence in Is. 53:9 cp. 1 Pet. 2:22. There is a clear fulfilment in the Lord's burial in the graveyard belonging to the rich man Joseph of Arimathea. But this obvious fulfilment of prophecy isn't noted in the New Testament. A hallmark of God's Hand in the record is that what to us are the most obvious OT prophecies are not quoted; e.g. Is. 53:7: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth". A human author would have made great capital from such detailed fulfillments. But not so the Almighty. Hebrew, along with all the Semitic languages, has no superlatives. God doesn’t need them. And the record of the cross is a classic example. The record of the resurrection reflects a similar culture. The actual resurrection isn’t ever described [in marked contrast to how it is in the uninspired ‘gospels’]. Instead we read of the impact of His resurrection upon His disciples.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was Yahweh’s will to bruise him-
It was God who 'bruised' the Lord on the cross. Gen. 3:15 says it was the seed of the serpent who bruised Him. Conclusion: God worked through the seed of the serpent, God was [and is] totally in control. The serpent is therefore not a symbol of radical, free flying evil which is somehow outside of God's control, and which 'bruised' God's Son whilst God was powerless to stop His Son being bruised. Not at all. God was in control, even of the seed of the serpent. However we finally wish to interpret "the seed of the serpent", the simple fact is that God was in powerful control of it / him.


He has caused him to suffer. When You make his soul an offering for sin- Is. 53:10 NIV describes the Lord's death as a "guilt offering". Ignorance is no atonement for sin, as the Law taught. "Forgive them for they know not what they do" sounds as if the Lord felt that He was the offering for ignorance, which was required for both rulers and ordinary Israelites (cp. how Peter and Paul describe both the rulers and ordinary people as "ignorant", implying they had a need for the ignorance offering of Christ, Acts 3:17; 13:27). And significantly, Heb. 5:2 describes Christ as a good priest who can have compassion on those (i.e. us) who have sinned through ignorance and want reconciliation. As we come, progressively, to realize our sinfulness, we need to make a guilt offering. But that guilt offering has already been made, with the plea "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do". All our sin, false guilt and real guilt, has been dealt with. We perhaps cannot ultimately decide, at least not by any intellectual process, what parts of our sense of "guilt" are false guilt, and which are legitimate and needful guilt. Whatever, the Lord's guilt offering has removed all this.

The Lord’s soul was sorrowful unto death in Gethsemane, as if the stress alone nearly killed Him (Mk. 14:34). "My soul is full of troubles, and my life (therefore) draweth nigh unto the grave" (Ps. 88:3). Is. 53:10-12 speaks of the fact that the Lord's soul suffered as being the basis of our redemption; the mind contained within that spat upon head, as it hung on that tortured body; this was where our salvation was won. Death is the ultimately intense experience, and living a life dedicated to death would have had an intensifying effect upon the Lord's character and personality.

The LXX is very relevant to Hezekiah: "The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke. If ye can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed".


He shall see his seed- It seems to me that in some sense the Lord Jesus had a vision of us in the Kingdom just before his death (Is. 53:10; Heb. 12:2; Ps. 22:17,20 cp. Eph. 5:30). "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed... he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied" (Is. 53:10,11 AV). "When" would suggest that the Lord had some kind of vision of those He was offering Himself for, especially in their future, forgiven state.

Another take is that when God made His soul sin on the cross [AV “offering for sin" is not in the Hebrew text- it’s an interpretation], then He saw [Heb. to perceive / discern] His seed (Is. 53:10). This all seems to mean that it was through this feeling as a sinner deep within His very soul, that the Lord Jesus came to ‘see’, to closely identify with, to perceive truly, us His sinful seed / children. And He did this right at the very end of His hours of suffering, as if this was the climax of His sufferings- they led Him to a full and total identity with sinful men and women. And once He reached that point, He died. The total identity of the Lord with our sinfulness is brought out in passages like Rom. 8:3, describing Jesus as being “in the likeness of sinful flesh" when He was made a sin offering; and 1 Pet. 2:24, which speaks of how He “his own self…in his own body" bore our sins “upon the tree". Note that it was at the time of His death that He was especially like this. I believe that these passages speak more of the Lord’s moral association with sinners, which reached a climax in His death, than they do of His ‘nature’.

He shall prolong his days- The victory of the Lord Jesus is described as Him 'prolonging his days', in allusion back to the way Dt. 17:20 teaches that the King of Israel must study the word all the days of his life, with the result that he would "prolong his days". The almost unbelievable victory of the man Christ Jesus against every aspect of the flesh was due to His saturation with the spirit of God's word. 

And the will of Yahweh shall prosper in his hand- The pleasure or will of our loving Father is that we should share His Kingdom (Lk. 12:32), and that pleasure / will prospered through the cross of Jesus (Is. 53:10). God isn’t indifferent. He wants us to be there. That’s why He gave His Son to die. It’s as simple as that. The deepest longings we feel in our earthly lives, as parents, as lovers, are mere flickers of the hungering desire God feels for us. It is a desire that cost Him His very own crucified son. He willed (not "pleased", as AV) this bruising, and this putting to grief (Is. 53:10). The parallel here between the bruising, beating and putting to grief may suggest that the beatings up ('bruisings') really grieved the Lord. And note that the final sacrifice of which Is. 53 speaks was not only achieved by the hours spent hanging on the cross. This earlier beating and abusing was just as much a part of His final passion, as, in essence, His whole life was a living out of the principles of the cross.


Isaiah 53:11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light and be satisfied-
I prefer AV "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied". He will and does now see in us the [result of] the travail of His soul. We note that His travail was so much internal, "of his soul". The term "travail / suffering of [the] soul" effectively means 'His life's work' (Ecc. 2:24; 4:8; 6:7 s.w.). As we die, one by one, and He knows that for sure He will resurrect and save us at the last day... this verse comes true, time and again. He sees the result of His life's work and His final death... and is "satisfied".


My righteous servant will justify many by the knowledge of himself- “Raised for our justification’ (Rom. 4:25) is an allusion to the LXX of Is. 53:11, which speaks of “the righteous servant” (Jesus) “justifying the righteous”. The repetition of the word “righteous” suggests that on account of the Lord’s death, and resurrection, His righteousness becomes ours, through this process of justification. But how and why, exactly, does Christ’s death and resurrection enable our justification? Paul has explained that faith in God brings justification before Him. Now Paul is explaining how and why this process operates. Jesus died and rose again to eternal life as our representative. If we believe into Him (which Romans 6 defines as involving our identification with His death and resurrection by baptism), then we too will live for ever as He does, as we will participate in His resurrection to eternal life. Our final justification, being declared in the right, will be at the day of judgment. We will be resurrected, judged, and declared righteous- and given eternal life, never again to sin and die. This is the end result of the status of ‘justified’ which we have now, as we stand in the dock facing God’s judgment.

Through the cross, the Lord Jesus would "justify the many". Yet this phrase is picked up in Dan. 12:3 and applied to those who preach the Gospel- and thereby become "those who justify the many". The implication is plain enough. Through preaching, we live out the Lord's death for others in practice, we placard Him crucified before the world's eyes. We are not simply "Him" to them; we are Him crucified to them. The honour of this is surpassing.

And he will bear their iniquities- He was a sin bearer; and the idea of sin bearing was almost an idiom for being personally guilty and sinful (Num. 14:34; Ex. 28:43). The Lord was our sin bearer and yet personally guiltless. This is the paradox which even He struggled with; no wonder we do, on a far more abstract level. As He bore away our iniquities (Is. 53:11), so “we then that are strong ought to bear the iniquities of the weak” (Rom. 15:1). The Lord Jesus didn’t sin Himself but He took upon Himself our sins- to the extent that He felt a sinner, even though He wasn’t. Our response to this utter and saving grace is to likewise take upon ourselves the infirmities and sins of our brethren. If one is offended, we burn too; if one is weak, we are weak; we bear the infirmities of the weak (Rom. 15:1). But in the context of that passage, Paul is quoting from Is. 53:11, about how the Lord Jesus bore our sins on the cross. We live out the spirit of His cross, not in just bearing with our difficulties in isolation, but in feeling for our weak brethren. The description of the believer as a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1) alludes to the scapegoat, the only living sacrifice, which was a type of the risen Lord (Lev. 16:10 LXX = Acts 1:3). As the Lord ran free in His resurrection, bearing away the sins of men, so we who are in Him and preach that salvation can do the same. As He bore away our iniquities (Is. 53:11), so “we then that are strong ought to bear the iniquities of the weak” (Rom. 15:1). We live out the spirit of His cross, not in just bearing with our difficulties in isolation, but in feeling for our weak brethren.

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong-
The idea of the Lord binding Satan (the "strong man"), stealing his goods and sharing them with His followers is a picture of His victory on the cross. It is full of allusion to Is. 53:12, which says that on account of the fact that the Christ would pour out His soul unto death and bear our sins, "he shall divide the spoil with the strong (Heb. 'those that are bound')". This dividing of the spoils to us by the victorious Lord (Lk. 11:22; Is. 53:12) recalls how the Lord divided all His goods between His servants (Mt. 25:14), the dividing of all the Father's goods between the sons (representing the good and bad believers, Lk. 15:12). We have elsewhere shown that these goods refer to the various aspects of the supreme righteousness of Christ which are divided between the body of Christ. The spoils divided to us by the Lord are the various aspects of righteousness which He took for Himself from Satan. The picture of a bound strong man having his house ransacked before his eyes carries with it the idea of suspense, of daring, of doing something absolutely impossible. And so the idea of Christ really taking the righteousness which the Satan of our very natures denies us, and giving these things to us, is almost too much to believe.

Because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors- There would have been a loss of lymph and body fluid to the point that Christ felt as if He had been "poured out like water" (Ps. 22:14); He "poured out his soul to death", as if His sense of dehydration was an act He consciously performed; He felt that the loss of moisture was because He was pouring it out Himself. This loss of moisture was therefore due to the mental processes within the Lord Jesus, it was a result of His act of the will in so mentally and emotionally giving Himself for us, rather than just the physical result of crucifixion.

In the Lord's death we see the heart that bleeds, bared before our eyes in the cross. It is written of Him in His time of dying that He "poured out his soul unto death" (Is. 53:12). The Hebrew translated "poured out" means to make naked- it is rendered as "make thyself naked" in Lam. 4:21 (see too Lev. 20:18,19; Is. 3:17). The Lord' sensitivity was what led Him to His death- He made His soul naked, bare and sensitive, until the stress almost killed Him quite apart from the physical torture. To be sensitive to others makes us open and at risk ourselves. A heart that bleeds really bleeds and hurts within itself. And this was the essence of the cross.

The Lord poured out His soul unto death as a conscious act performed to enable our redemption (Is. 53:12). Materially, this may refer to the way in which every respiration of the Lord would have scraped His sensitive skin against the rough wood, so that there would have been constant blood flow from His back. This was sometimes a cause of death through crucifixion: blood loss through repeated agitation of the wounds by lifting up the body to breathe and exhale. In this sense He poured out His soul unto death. Muscle cramps would have tended to fix the muscles and make respiration difficult without a wilful yanking of the body weight upwards on the wounded nerves.

The Lord Jesus Christ “made himself of no reputation”, or “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7 R.V.), alluding to the prophecy of his crucifixion in Is. 53:12: “He poured out his soul unto death”. He “took upon himself the form (demeanour) of a servant” by his servant-like attitude to his followers (Jn. 13:14), demonstrated supremely by his death on the cross (Mt. 20:28). Is. 52:14 prophesied concerning Christ’s sufferings that on the cross “his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men”. This progressive humbling of himself “unto death, even the death of the cross” was something which occurred during his life and death, not at his birth. The context of Phil. 2 relates to the mind of Jesus, the humility of which is being held up to us as an example to copy. These verses must therefore speak of Jesus’ life on earth, in our human nature, and how he humbled himself, despite having a mind totally in tune with God, to consider our needs.

Yet he bore the sin of many- The Lord knew from Isaiah 53 that He was to bear Israel's sins, that the judgments for their sins were to fall upon Him. Israel ‘bore their iniquities’ by being condemned for them (Num. 14:34,35; Lev. 5:17; 20:17); to be a sin bearer was therefore to be one condemned. To die in punishment for your sin was to bear you sin. There is a difference between sin, and sin being laid upon a person. Num. 12:11 brings this out: “Lay not the sin upon us… wherein we have sinned”. The idea of sin being laid upon a person therefore refers to condemnation for sin. Our sin being laid upon Jesus therefore means that He was treated as if He were a condemned sinner. He briefly endured within Him the torment of soul which the condemned will feel.

And made intercession for the transgressors- On the cross, the Lord prayed for men to be forgiven. This was a fulfilment of this prophecy that He would "justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities", be wounded for our transgressions, be bruised for our iniquities, make a sin offering for His seed, heal us through His stripes, achieve our peace with God through His chastisement, bear the sin of many, be numbered with the transgressors, be stricken "for the transgression of my people", and make "intercession for the transgressors". These are all broadly parallel statements. "The transgressors" are primarily "my people", Israel, who despised and rejected him. And yet they also refer to us, insofar as we become identified with Israel in order to be saved. The prophesy that Christ would make "intercession for the transgressors" in His time of dying was surely fulfilled when He prayed "Father forgive them".

The risen and exalted Lord is spoken of as being shamed, being crucified afresh, as agonizing in prayer for us just as He did on the cross (Rom. 8:24 cp. Heb. 5:7-9). On the cross, He made intercession for us; but now He ever lives to make such intercession (Heb. 7:25). There He bore our sins; and yet now He still bears our sins (Is. 53:4-6,11). Somehow, the cross is still there. The blood of Jesus cleanses us, in the present tense, from all our sins; the Lord Jesus loves us and frees us from our sins by His blood (1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5). We are cleansed by an ever 'freshly slain' sacrifice (Heb. 10:20 Gk.).

LXX "and was delivered because of their iniquities" is alluded to in Rom. 4:25: “Handed over because of our trespasses”. The Gospel accounts of the crucifixion give special emphasis to the moment of the Lord being handed over to those who would crucify Him. Paul is going on to show the mechanics, as it were, of how God has chosen to operate. His scheme of justifying us isn’t merely a case of Him saying ‘So you are declared right by Me’. He can do as He wishes, but He prefers to work through some kind of mechanism. We are declared right by God although we are sinners; which raises the obvious question: So what becomes of our sins? And so Paul explains that by talking about the crucial role of the death of Christ. Because He was of our nature, He is our representative. Although He never sinned, He died, yet He rose again to eternal life. Through connection with Him, we therefore can be counted as in Him, and thereby be given that eternal life through resurrection, regardless of our sins. In this sense, Jesus had to die and resurrect because of our sins.